A Proverb a day, with commentary from H.A. Ironside, a great Bible teacher from the mid-20th Century.
The man who loves instruction for its own sake values true knowledge, whatever channel it may come through.
Whoever welcomes discipline desires the truth, not the ability to display his acquired knowledge. The vain scholar hates reproof and, like a senseless animal does not value correction (Pro_10:17). He prefers his own unbridled will, however contrary his thoughts and ways may be to sound instruction. This was the great characteristic of the world before the flood (Job_22:15-17). Josiah, the godly young king of Judah, is a fine example of the opposite (2 Chronicles 34).
The face of the Lord shines on the good man. His root will be firmly established. “He shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand” (Rom_14:4). But that same divine character which makes Him delight in uprightness necessitates His condemnation of a man of wicked devices. That man will never be established. “The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psa_1:5). See Hushai and Ahithophel (2Sa_15:32; 2Sa_16:15-23; 2Sa_17:1-23).
It would be a serious mistake to limit the word virtuous (kjv) to the thought of chastity. The virtuous woman is one in whom all noble qualities shine, as fully described in Proverbs 31. Such a woman is indeed a crown to her husband. The foolish and lazy wife who makes her husband ashamed is like the sudden coming on of old age. Contrast Sarah (Gen_18:12 and 1Pe_3:1-6) with Job’s wife (Job_2:9-10).
Right thoughts result in right words and actions and will be rewarded by Him who delights in righteousness. But evil thoughts produce the fruit of evil words and deeds. They too will receive their reward. The judgment of God is established in truth, as every soul will acknowledge in the end. Contrast Absalom and David.
Wisdom is commended among all men, while a vain and foolish spirit is contemptible. The world appreciates sobriety and spiritual intelligence, though it may refuse or even persecute the one who possesses these traits. But to pretend to have spiritual wisdom, while lacking it elicits the disgust of all reasonable men. Note the difference in the estimation formed by others of Gideon and Abimelech (Judges 7-9).
The Douay version renders the final line somewhat differently: “Better is the poor that provideth for himself.” The verse evidently refers to one who is looked down on as lowly, but whose needs are met. He is happier and more to be envied than one who delights in making a pompous display while feeling the pinch of hunger and distress. See Jacob and Esau (Gen_25:27-34).
A truly righteous man cannot act inconsistently with his character even in regard to an animal. The creature’s total dependence on him will stir his compassions, so that he will treat it with kindness. The wicked, on the other hand, becomes more brutal as he recognizes his own power to control the lower creation. Cruelty and unrighteousness go hand in hand. Contrast Jacob with Balaam. See Gen_33:13-14 and Num_22:23-31.
The diligent farmer is abundantly rewarded for his toil. The frivolous, idling companion of reckless fools shows his lack of intelligence. This is a challenging word for young Christians. God’s Word is a field well worth cultivating. The apostle urged, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Ti_2:15). Those who obey this injunction are invariably repaid for every hour earnestly devoted to the consideration of this precious field. Many waste much time in idle folly, keeping company with empty, frivolous, worldly people, neglecting their Bibles to the serious detriment of their spiritual life. They often wonder how other Christians can discover so much that is new and edifying in the Scriptures. They see no such lovely lessons and helpful suggestions, because they do not really work the land. If they did, they too would be satisfied with the bread of God’s Word.
The loss by those who do not study the Scriptures is incalculable, both here and in eternity. This neglect of the Bible is the root of much backsliding, coldness of heart, and departure from God. The believer must make it a daily practice to dig into the Book for himself. When he seeks to walk in the truth learned by the Spirit’s power, he will grow in grace and in the knowledge of the things of God. Timothy is a fine pattern for all young saints on this point (2Ti_3:14-17). The ungodly Jehoiakim is a warning beacon for all in danger of taking the opposite course (Jer_36:22-32).
The wicked seeks to surround his very soul with evil, while hoping to escape in the day of judgment; but he is snared with the words of his mouth, and is exposed to worse calamities than those which he tried to avoid. Refer to Gehazi (2Ki_5:20-27).
The righteous places his trust in God with holy confidence and bears fruit to His glory. In the day of his trouble he has a Deliverer near at hand. See Elisha (2Ki_6:17).
Once again in the book of Proverbs we see the principle of divine government that no man can change: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal_6:7). Every man will be repaid according to his doings. The Christian is not above this law of the kingdom of God. He rather bows his head and acknowledges God’s justice. See the parable of the unmerciful servant (Mat_18:24-35).
Two things are stated in these verses as being characteristic of the man who is designated a fool-that is, one who lacks divine wisdom. He is proud and self-confident, refusing to accept correction. On the other hand, he is intolerant of others’ faults. He readily shows his indignation and makes the wound worse instead of binding it up. The wise and prudent man contrasts this in every way. He is hardest on himself and readily accepts counsel, willingly admitting that others may be wiser than he; and he is always ready to cover the shame of another, rather than to spread it around. It is the same contrast that existed when Ham unblushingly related the tale of Noah’s shame, as though himself superior to his father; while Shem and Japheth went backwards to cover their dishonored parent (Gen_9:20-29).
The six verses are all occupied with the same general theme -lips of truth contrasted with a lying tongue. The latter is an abomination to Him who is Himself the Truth. He delights in truth because it is in accord with His own nature.
Honest speech reveals integrity of heart; falsity reveals deceit of the heart. The one who does not hesitate at deliberate lying scatters pain and sorrow everywhere. His poisoned words pierce the hearts of gentle souls like a sword. The tongue of the wise is beneficial and uplifting to these sensitive ones. But the day of reckoning is coming, when truthful lips will be established forever and lying tongues go into oblivion.
It should be remembered that it is intentional deceit that is here in question. It is sad to hear good men recklessly charge others with lying because they have uttered an untruth in the innocency of their hearts. A statement may be false as to fact, but true in its intent; just as a statement may be true as to fact, which was uttered with the intent to deceive. It is the deceit in the heart that causes the lips to utter a lie. None should be so charged unless the evidence makes it clear there was intention to prevaricate.
The just will be preserved from evil, even as they have sought the good of others. But the disobedient will be judged without mercy; for God cannot but demonstrate His hatred of that which is false and His approval of truth and righteousness. Contrast Nehemiah and Sanballat (Neh_6:5-9).
The man who has least worth saying is generally the man who says the most. The prudent man is not forever displaying his knowledge; the fool loses no opportunity to proclaim his empty folly. See Jeremiah and Hananiah (Jer_28:1-11).
It is not ability only that causes one to succeed and advance in life. There must be earnest endeavor, otherwise talent and brilliancy count for nothing. The slothful, however great his natural gifts and intelligence, will be inferior to the patient plodder in the end. This is what someone has called “the gospel of work.” It is all-important, both in the natural and the spiritual sphere. Contrast Gideon and Barak (Jdg_6:11-12; Jdg_4:4-9).
“How forcible are right words,” (Job_6:25) bringing comfort, cheer, and encouragement to those in grief of soul and bitterness of spirit! See Nehemiah and Artaxerxes (Neh_2:2-8).
The man with clean ways and a clear conscience will be able to edify and restore his wayward brother to God. “He that is spiritual judgeth all things” (1Co_2:15). The words of the disobedient man are tempting and ensnaring. He does not have his brother’s good at heart, but rather his undoing. Nathan illustrates the first; the woman of Tekoa is an example of the second (2Sa_12:1-14; 2Sa_14:1-20).
Some men can exert themselves for a time, but soon fall back into their customary slothful manner. Many hear the ministry of the Word but fail afterwards to meditate on it and make it their own. They are like a hunter who spares no pain in the excitement of the hunt but afterward does nothing good with his prey. The way of the diligent is very different. He uses his resources well and so more is given to him. See the parable of the talents (Mat_25:14-30). Ruth is a striking illustration of the diligent. She gleaned all day and in the evening “beat out that she had gleaned” (Rth_2:17).The servant who hid his pound in a napkin pictures the slothful.
The way of righteousness is that path of the just that shines more and more unto the perfect day (Pro_4:18). Passing through a scene of death, the path goes on to the land of life. Eternal life is now the precious possession of all who have entered it by the straight gate. Death, although real and true to those on the path of sin, for the just it is the entrance into the gladness and glory of the Father’s house. “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even over [not, as in the kjv, unto] death” (Psa_48:14). Happy are all who walk the path of holiness through a world of sin up to the city of God!